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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
National reforms in higher education


14.Ongoing reforms and policy developments

14.4National reforms in higher education

Last update: 19 September 2022


Updated vision for international activities in Finnish higher education

An updated vision for international activities in Finnish higher education has been published. The vision is a follow-up to the policies for strengthening the international dimension of Finnish higher education and research 2017-2025, which was adopted during the previous government term.

The vision is drawn up by the forum appointed by the Ministry of Education and Culture for strengthening the international dimension of Finnish higher education and research together with stakeholders. The purpose is to guide different actors, such as higher education institutions and agencies in the Ministry’s remit, towards the essential themes identified in the vision.

The vision highlights five overall objectives:

  1. Finland, a society guided by values and principles
  2. Finland, a competitive economy that attracts talent
  3. Finland, a responsible and receptive nation
  4. Finland, an agent in resolving sustainable development challenges
  5. Finland, a country that builds on cooperation

Updated vision:

More funds for developing study opportunities for beneficiaries of temporary protection in higher education


The Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture allocates EUR 5.5 milloin to support higher education institutions in their efforts to provide more study opportunities for beneficiaries of temporary protection. The funds will be used to finance the provision of English-language education and to increase preparatory education for higher education for immigrants in universities of applied sciences.

The aim is that the resources will also help to increase the supply of culturally bilingual degree programmes. In these programmes, language instruction is an integral part of the core studies. This helps the future graduates to find a job in Finland at the language proficiency level that their profession requires.

The funding is part of the action plan to support Ukrainian higher education students and researchers. This funding also aims to support the individual study paths of beneficiaries of temporary protection. Students may continue higher education studies that they started in their home country or enrol for higher education studies in Finland by completing modules that can be used as accreditation for a degree in either Finland or Ukraine. Higher education studies prepare and support the reconstruction of Ukraine and respond to the shortage of skilled people in Finland.

A total of 21 projects across Finland is financed. The funding decisions take into account factors such as the educational profiles of different higher education institutions, the educational needs of beneficiaries of temporary protection and the needs of different regions and industrial sectors in Finland.

More information:

Evaluation on introduction of tuition fees to non-EU/EEA student: fees did not halt the internationalisation process of higher education institutions

The working group set up by the Ministry of Education and Culture to monitor and assess the introduction of tuition fees in higher education has completed its work. According to the working group evaluation report, the introduction of tuition fees has not had long-term adverse effects on making higher education institutions more international or on the willingness of non-EU/EEA students to study in Finnish higher education institutions. 

The number of international students fell immediately after tuition fees were introduced, but the number of new foreign students now exceeds the level preceding the introduction of the fees (5 800 in 2020). Non-EU/EEA citizens still constitute a clear majority (75 %) among new foreign students in Finnish higher education institutions. The provision of foreign-language degrees has increased in higher education institutions, international student recruitment and marketing have become systematic, and application and admissions systems have evolved to cater to international needs.

According to the evaluation, different higher education institutions have made different choices regarding the introduction of tuition fees and international student recruitment. Not all higher education institutions have the same numbers of international students enrolling as before, and tuition fees are not deemed a significant source of revenue in all higher education institutions. 
The tuition fees sums charged by higher education institutions varied between EUR 4,000 and EUR 18,000. The most common single fees were EUR 6,000 and 8,000 for universities of applied sciences and EUR 8,000, EUR 10,000 and EUR 12,000 for universities. Higher education institutions use a broad range of grant and scholarship systems. 

The working group does not propose amendments to the legislation. The group considers it viable that the legislation leaves the higher education institutions the power to determine the amount of tuition fees and their practices for grant and scholarship systems. However, higher education institutions should ensure that the tuition fees and grants and scholarships as a whole work in such a way that the tuition fees cover the costs of the education and provide higher education institutions with a wider funding base for broadening their international scope. 

Evaluation report in Finnish




10 200 new study places for higher educational institutes between 2020 and 2022

The Ministry of Education and Culture has decided to increase the number of study places for higher education institutes. For universities more than 6,300 study places and for universities of applied sciences a bit less than 4 000 study places will be added between 2020 and 2022

By increasing the number of study places in higher education institutions the objectives of the government program - to increase the level of education and to respond to the shortage of experts in various fields and regions - will be implemented. In addition, one aim with increasing the study places and with investing in education for young people is to level out the economic impact of the exceptional circumstances caused by the coronavirus.                          

Additional study places will be targeted especially at fields that suffer from labor shortages. Most of the additional places in Universities, 25 %, are allocated in the field of technology and in Universities of applied sciences around half of the additional places are allocated to the field of health and well-being


Changes in educational responsibilities for several universities and universities of applied sciences

Starting from 2021, Finnish universities and universities of applied sciences can provide more degree programmes in the fields of Engineering, ICT, Welfare, Psychology, and Pharmacy. Five universities of applied sciences and four universities will have a bigger educational responsibility in some of these fields in the future. This means that there can be  more educational provision in the fields. The aim is to ensure that Finland has enough highly qualified professionals in the future.

Universities and universities of applied sciences can provide only those degrees included in their educational responsibility. Educational responsibilities are negotiated between the Ministry of Education and Culture and the institutions.


Teacher education is still considered to be attractive among young people in Finland

Teacher education has been a popular field of study for applicants in Finland. Only a bit more than 10 % of applicants are getting a study place in class teacher education. However, the number of applicants has been falling from 2015 to 2019, and this has given rise to concerns.

Ministry of Education and Culture commissioned a study on the attractiveness of teacher education. The study examined which factors increase the attractiveness of teacher education and which ones reduce it. More than 6,300 general upper secondary school students participated in the study.

Based on the survey, young people appreciate the work of teachers and feel that it is important. This is the most important reason for applying for teacher education. The greatest doubts are related to the perception that teachers’ working conditions in schools have deteriorated.

According to statistical data on applicants, with the exception of teacher education in early childhood education and care, applicant numbers have increased in 2020.

To the report (in Finnish, summary in English):


Preparation of accessibility plan for higher education

The Ministry of Education and Culture is preparing an accessibility plan for higher education. The plan will examine accessibility in higher education from the perspectives of socio-economic status, regions, gender, immigrant background, ethnic groups, language groups and people with disabilities. It will also examine the different steps in the educational pathway all the way from applying to an institution higher education to moving into working life.

Ministry of Education and Culture appointed a steering group, a scientific panel and a rapporteur to prepare the plan. The work includes a description of equality in higher education, including any obstacles that under-represented groups have to face, a proposal for improving accessibility and recommendations for any necessary measures. The plan will be published in July 2021.



Development of higher education-changes in student admissions

In 2017, the Ministry of Education and Culture agreed with the universities and universities of applied sciences on the measures that should be taken by 2020 to develop student admissions.

By 2018, universities and universities of applied sciences had introduced a new student admissions procedure. It now takes less time for applicants to prepare for the admissions. Entrance examinations have been made less strenuous. Higher education institutions have either reduced their exam reading lists or stopped using them altogether. In some disciplines, entrance exams now test the applicants’ knowledge of the general upper secondary school syllabus.

From 2020, more than half of the student places will be filled on the basis of grades. Universities will consider the grades gained in the Finnish matriculation examination grades, while universities of applied sciences will take into account grades gained both in the matriculation examination and in the vocational upper secondary qualification. Admissions will no longer be based on an admission score that combines the points awarded for the entrance examination and for the grades in the final certificate. However, admissions may continue to be based solely on entrance examinations.

In autumn 2019, universities of applied sciences will introduce a joint entrance examination.


The ministry grants funding to increase the number of new students entering nurse education 

The ministry of education and culture aims to increase the number of new entrants into nurse education in 15 universities of applied sciences in 2020.  A one-off increase, a total of five million euros, is granted to the universities of applied sciences to take in an additional 180 new students.  The funding has been allocated based on regional labour needs. There is a demand for educated personnel especially in the services for the elderly.

For more information in Finnish:

Development of teaching practice periods in kindergarten teacher education receives funding

The ministry of education and culture has granted a total of 1.2 million euros to seven universities to develop kindergarten teacher training schools. The funding will be used during 2019-2020 to create models for developing the teaching practice periods included in the kindergarten teacher education and its research-based development. While networking among institutions and local actors will be increased the connection with teacher education at other levels of education will be tightened.   

For more information in Finnish:

Tuition fees lowered the number of new foreign HE students in 2017

The number of newly enrolled foreign degree students decreased by nearly 25 % in 2017 compared to the year before. The decrease seems to be related to the tuition fees for non-EU and EEA students introduced in autumn 2017. The decrease was seen particularly in this group of students. However, the majority, over 70 % of the degree students who started in 2017 came from outside the EU and EEA area.

The biggest drop can be seen in the university Master’s programmes. The number of new students in universities of applied sciences (UAS) decreased less drastically. There are clearly less students from abroad in university Bachelor’s programmes and UAS masters’ programmes and the numbers in these programmes have been fairly stable throughout the years. 

The number of foreign applicants grew 2018

The statistics on applicants to higher education in spring 2018 indicate that the number of new foreign degree students is on the rise. Some 36 % more foreign students applied to higher education programmes than in 2017. Particularly the number of applicants form outside the EU and EEA increased.

The number of foreign degree students in Finnish higher education institutions has tripled in the 2000s. In 2017 they constituted some 7 % of all higher education students, the total number being over 20 000. The proportion of foreign degree students in Finland is above the OECD average and higher than for example in Sweden and Norway.



Amendment to HE legislation is proposed to promote lifelong learning

The ministry of education has submitted a proposal to strengthen the role of higher education in lifelong learning by amending the legislation of universities and universities of applied science. The proposal includes easier access to higher education and enabling the provision of modules as continuous professional development. Also, the possibility to provide customised programmes leading to a higher education qualification would be available to citizens of EU and ETA countries.   

Reform in higher education application systems

During the year 2018 there will be a reform in higher education application system. Universities’ and universities of applied sciences’ application test system well be renewed so that it will emphasize more the final grades from upper secondary level.  Previously the emphasise has been more in the results of entrance exams. 

According the governments’ key projects this reform will reduce students’ gap years and help students to start earlier their studies. From the year 2020 onwards higher education institutions application system will be reformed so that majority of applicants will be accepted according the grades of upper secondary certification. 

In addition, HE institution will simplify their operations to be more flexible for those students who wish to change faculty or start new career.  HE institutions will focus on methods which ease paths to continue higher education studies and therefore emphasise opportunities on llifelong learning.


Study grant reform

From August 1,2017 study grant system in Finland was reformed.  The share of  student loan increased and share of grant decreased. Study grants paid to higher education students was adjusted to the level of the grants provided to students in secondary education. Student loan amounts were raised for all students.

Students who have started their studies from August 2017, are eligible for student grant 2 months less than students who have started their studies earlier. 

Student fees for non-EU/EEA students

In Finland, annual tuition fees were introduced to foreign-language Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes for non-EU/EEA students starting on August 1, 2017 or later.

Citizens of non-EU/EEA countries, who do not have a permanent residence status in the area, are liable to these fees. The fees range from 10 000 to 25 00 euro in programmes offered by higher education institutions. (Minimun fee 1500E/year) In joint programmes, the fees can differ from these. The individual student’s fee will remain the same throughout the completion of the programme. Fees are not charged of students who began their studies before August 1, 2017.


Reform of student financial support system

There are proposals to reform student financial support system due to the budged cuts. In addition the objective of the reform is to accelerate the studies and the graduation of students. The reform will come into effect on 2017.

  • the share of loan is planned to increase and the share of grant is planned to decrease
  • financial support will be available for maximum 54 months instead of 64 months
  • the minimum number of credit points per month necessary to be eligible for financial aid will be 6 instead of 5.